Keep an open mind

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Keep an open mind.  This was the admonition of member Bruce Gordon, host for the Pattaya City Expats Club’s Techniques of Mind Expansion Discussion Group, when he introduced Sunday’s guest speaker Michael Flinn to give his talk about religion. With that admonition, the members and guests at the Club’s meeting on Sunday, July 10, at the Amari’s Tavern by the Sea Restaurant waited in eager anticipation for Michaels talk to begin.

Bruce noted that Michael is a former art history professor and a lifelong scholar in the humanities, arts, philosophy, and the ancient world. His knowledge comes not only from books but from over 30 years of traveling around the world to personally experience and photograph the essence of the countries, people, art, and religions he speaks about. Michael has spent years in India and Nepal photographing sacred sites as well as the countries’ more bizarre aspects that most tourists never see.

Bruce Gordon, host of the Club’s popular Mind Expansion Group, introduced our speaker, Michael Flinn.Bruce Gordon, host of the Club’s popular Mind Expansion Group, introduced our speaker, Michael Flinn.

Bruce said he met Michael several years ago while traveling in India and found his views very thought provoking. Michael’s work appears in the collections of numerous American Universities and has been featured on the Discovery Channel.

Guest speaker, Michael Flinn, listens thoughtfully to a member’s question.Guest speaker, Michael Flinn, listens thoughtfully to a member’s question.

Michael’s comments were very interesting and indeed thought provoking; however, if you were a fundamentalist Christian, you might have said it was heresy. Michael touched on many areas relating to the formation of the Christian church and subsequent events. He also brought in earlier Greek history and philosophy and how it influenced the development of later Christian belief. Michael mentioned that religion is a response to the difficulty of living in a body and trying to find the answer to the unknown.

One of his comments related to what the Christian Bible says occurred with the crucifixion of Christ. He mentioned several factors surrounding the crucifixion that did not jive with historical records on how the Romans governed their provinces. However, he also pointed out that many of the “Books” in the Bible relating the time of Jesus were written much later in time long after the period they covered. Further, the beliefs of the early Jewish Christians were different from later Christians. He attributed this to the fact that while the Christian religion helped preserve civilization by copying by hand from other written documents, the translation and/or wording were open to the interpretation of the transcriber. Further, during the middle ages the Church had no interest in preserving knowledge unless it conformed to theology.

Hawaii Bob reported on the success of the Club’s Frugal Freddy dining group.Hawaii Bob reported on the success of the Club’s Frugal Freddy dining group.

Michael gave several examples of where the Bible and history do not necessarily go hand in hand. Further, he questioned whether the Bible should be taken literally by pointing out a few parts that did not appear logical.

In concluding his talk, he said that many believe that God gave man free will, but then knows what each man will do – Michael said this concept in his opinion is illogical. He then opened it up for the many questions that followed. Although religion can be a touchy subject, apparently everyone did keep an open mind as the questions and comments were mostly seeking clarification of some of the points he made or offering viewpoints of their own.

Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg then updated everyone on upcoming events and called on Pat Koester to conduct the ever informative and sometimes humorous Open Forum, where questioned are asked and answered, movies and restaurants are recommended and sometime a joke or two are told.